France, 1998

By Patrick M. Boyle

Let me begin by saying that I’m no sports fan. Perhaps my knowledge of athletic lore is best defined by the fact that I had to check with my little brother to make sure that the World Cup is a soccer-related event. However, in spite of my lack of enthusiasm towards it, I do have vivid memories of this sporting event. I am living proof that the World Cup, if nothing else, is impossible to ignore.

My family was vacationing in Europe during the 1998 World Cup, in France. Everywhere we went, roads were spotted with screaming fans; taverns were divided neatly into clearly defined cheering sections during matches; and strangers would approach each other to find out whether their favourite team was victorious that day.

I had the privilege of being in Lausanne, Switzerland, which is a stone’s throw from the French border, when the French soccer team vanquished Brazil in the final match. I don’t think I watched the game, but I was in the company of soccer fans and I remember looking up from my book when the game ended to realize the incoming chaos. Moments after the final whistle, the four-lane street in front of our hotel was jam-packed with crazed fans cheering for their team. For several hours they carried on, back and forth in an exhibition of their undying love for the game.

So there you have it: a nerdy non-sportsman’s take on the World Cup. Perhaps this year I’ll make a point to watch a few matches and find out what all this fuss is about.

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